The crisis is real, but what can we do? Many educators understand that schools need innovative solutions, such as telehealth, to keep up with the rise in student mental health issues.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that nearly half of public schools treated students with mental health disorders in the 2019-2020 school year. While schools are on the front lines, many are limited in what they can provide their students, especially for children in rural settings, home-schooled children, and those with disabilities.
A May 2022 survey reported that a stunning 88% percent of public schools did not strongly believe they could effectively provide mental health services to students in need. The most-reported limitations involved mental health provider shortages–61 percent cited insufficient staff coverage, and 57% cited a lack of access to providers.
Increasingly, schools have begun using remote telehealth services to fight the battle for student wellness.
Using Technology to Bridge the Gap
Technology-based telehealth became more widely accepted in the larger community during COVID, and the same is true of school districts. During the 2021-2022 school year, approximately one out of five schools (17%) offered mental health services through telehealth—in the school setting or at home.
With technology filling the gap in emotional and mental health services in schools, we can positively impact student wellness, absenteeism, unfinished learning, and learning loss. The overall result is that telehealth can help improve students’ health, helping them be more prepared to learn, have better life outcomes, and achieve academic success.
Telehealth Works for Students in a Variety of Situations
For schools that are committed to supporting students experiencing depression, anxiety, trauma, bullying, and academic stress, telehealth is a game changer. Sometimes technology is the best option, even when in-person mental health support is available.
- Convenience: Students can receive care at school, where they already spend much of their time, enabling them to return to class quickly and easily after the session.
- Greater Equity: Students who have difficulty getting to in-person appointments have equal access
- Flexibility: Students can receive help at home or at school without worrying about travel time or transportation to and from sessions.
- Comfort: Students can receive help in a location they are used to, rather than in an unfamiliar office.
- Staffing Up: Schools can overcome staffing limitations and cut wait times for sessions with the availability of professionals from outside the district or across state lines.
- Flexible hours: Therapy from home is available when school is not in session, such as after hours or during vacations.
- Familiarity with Technology: Students are at ease using technology and online video communication.
As we learned during the COVID lockdown, learning remotely also has challenges. Some of the same concerns apply to remote telehealth. For example, some areas may not have broadband access. Occasionally there may be tech issues, such as problems logging, poor sound, or poor video quality—which can decrease session productivity. Some schools may also need funding for upfront infrastructure costs.
A specific consideration for mental health teletherapy is that even though the participants can hear each other’s voices and see facial expressions, important body language and a sense of immediacy are lost.
Teletherapy May Be the Right Solution for Your School
Student mental health is on the front burner, but we need to turn up the heat. Whether your district is facing staffing, transportation, flexibility, or access issues, telehealth can be a valuable way to overcome the obstacles blocking student access to mental health services.
Find out how the telehealth services available as part of the HELPme solution by STOPit Solutions can provide reliable support when your students need it.